When Less Is More - Tactics and Weapons - LawOfficer.com

When Less Is More

Less-lethal tools must be accompanied by realistic training



Chris Boyd | From the August 2011 Issue Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Below 100 Initiative
» Wear Your Seatbelt
» Wear Your Vest
» Watch Your Speed
» WIN - What's Important Now?
» Remember: Complacency Kills!


There’s not a single U.S. law enforcement agency that doesn’t provide its officers with at least one less-lethal force option. Most agencies issue or allow a variety of less-lethal tools. However, equipment is only half of the equation. Training is the other essential part. This article will address equipment and training issues related to the use of common less-lethal law enforcement tools. I’ll also explore the importance of conducting safe and meaningful training.

Less-Lethal Training
Contemporary law enforcement agencies realize the need to maintain a training program that includes the entire use-of-force spectrum, from command presence to deadly force. Most, if not all states, require certain basic and ongoing training for law enforcement. This training is prescribed through mandates made by state commissions, such as Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST).

Initial training for most officers with duty-specific equipment occurs in the basic police academy. Upon graduation, agencies that send their recruits to regional academies may require the new officers to undergo additional training in defensive tactics and firearms taught by the department’s own in-house instructors. This provides an opportunity for department trainers to assess the proficiency of their new officers before they hit the streets with their FTOs. It also serves as an opportunity to teach agency-specific policies and train officers with equipment not trained on at the academy.

Beyond initial training, regularly scheduled training is required to maintain proficiency and provide updates on new techniques and equipment. The frequency and type of training should be specified in written department policies to ensure it occurs.

Training is usually broken into specific disciplines, which can include:

• Firearms

• Defensive tactics (sometimes called “arrest and control”)

• Tactical communications

• Emergency vehicle operations

• First-aid/CPR

• Legal updates

For purposes of this article, defensive tactics, firearms and tactical communications are relevant.

The vast majority of agencies I’m familiar with have separate training cadres for range training and defensive tactics training. This model seems to work best as long as the two types of training complement one other. By that, I mean that the training should be consistent and without contradictions. Example: My department’s defensive tactics instructors and firearms instructors train our officers to verbally engage suspects with the command, “Police, don’t move!” This verbal order is defensible in any scenario, especially if the incident were to result in a “furtive movement” shooting. A lack of consistency in training could result in an extended reaction time on the part of the officer, potentially resulting in the suspect prevailing rather than the officer. It could also cause confusion on the part of the suspect should multiple officers give conflicting commands. Finally, conflicted training could be problematic during litigation where instructors from the same agency are testifying in opposition to each other regarding training. (For more on why this is so important, see Dave Grossi’s column from last month, “Unifying Use of Force Training: An integrated approach to training better prepares you for the job.”)

A Range of Equipment

Less-lethal tools reflect a range of force levels.

Chemical sprays: LEOs have used handheld chemical sprays (CS “Mace” and oleoresin capsicum “pepper spray”) for decades. These products are considered to be on the lowest force level of tools. The major manufacturers of aerosol irritants are CTS and Def-tec. Both provide several different-sized canisters for different applications, from very small (ideal for concealed carry by detectives or when off duty) to large payloads suitable for crowd control. Two options often overlooked by those responsible for selection and purchase of chemical sprays: the “fire extinguisher” size, which is great for deployment against aggressive dogs, and the inert agents, which are ideally suited for realistic scenario-based training.

Impact weapons: There’s a plethora of impact weapons in current use, from the old-school sap and straight-stick baton to the modern side-handle and telescoping batons. Monadnock and ASP are among the leading manufacturers of impact weapons. There are several agencies that also authorize the Orcutt Police Nunchaku (OPN). Be familiar with what your agency authorizes and the training requirements imposed. Are wooden batons authorized or just the high-impact plastic ones? Are only certain brands and model numbers allowed or is the policy more generic? Though these questions seem innocuous, they will be very relevant in any use-of-force litigation you may someday face.

Note: It’s important that officers train and practice striking bags with their actual equipment. However, when conducting scenario-based training, dedicated training impact weapons and red/blue guns should be substituted in place of the actual equipment to prevent injuries.

Below 100 Initiative
It’s been more than 70 years since the annual number of line-of-duty police deaths was fewer than 100. Law Officer's Below 100 initiative will change that by concentrating on areas that can most effectively save officers' lives. An awareness campaign, combined with a training program, Below 100 will provide a commonsense solution to driving down a number that has remained too high for too long. It begins with five simple tenets:

1. Wear Your Seatbelt | 2. Wear Your Vest | 3. Watch Your Speed
4. WIN-What's Important Now? | 5. Remember: Complacency Kills!


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Chris BoydChris Boyd is a 21- year veteran of the Carlsbad (Calif.) Police Dept. He has worked patrol, K-9 and vice/narcotics. Boyd is a certified Taser, MP5, NFDD and firearms instructor, and is currently assigned as a patrol sergeant. He’s also an entry-team leader on his department’s SWAT team.


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